Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tahoe Reloaded

I'm not complaining about the spring, but let's keep it in Mountain View for now, please.

A storm was in the forecast but not sure anyone else noticed that winter is still on here.

Kirkwood's rocky decorations.

The next morning, brushing the fresh snow off the car I'm feeling heavenly, so let's head there to surf some fresh pow.

Nothing to complain about.

It may not be elegant but it's the only line in the picture, so what.

Snowboard getting snowed in by the fresh pow while I'm planning my turn.

Extra careful line to not hurt the little tree.

Pretty nice pitch, eh?

This felt like surfing.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

California Dreamin'

On a winter's day - you take highway 17 to Santa Cruz. It's 7am as you reach the peak and get a glimpse of the Monterey Bay.

You descend into the foggy bay and find the parking lot at the Santa Cruz light house full and some crazy paddle surf contest going on which starts at 7:20am. You turn to Pleasure Point.

And the sky is gray. The steps down the cliff to the beach are sketchy.

The waves wash the dust off your surfboard - frequent, small, easy to catch, yet providing a decent ride. Best of all it's a weekday, so at 7:30 am you pick a nice takeoff spot just for yourself, no competition. Later, when the locals show up, you leave it to them and head to work.

Best of all, it's not just a dream.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring in Mountain View

Spring has arrived in Mountain View, and last week on the way back from lunch I took a few pictures to record the evidence.

Note the blue sky.

A bee flew in this tree, approaching a particular blossom.

Here she has landed and will get busy in another split second.

Now we see the bee from behind. We skip the remaining frames - next thing that happens is that she crawls into the blossom, and then re-emerges to fly after the next blossom. The whole sequence takes 5-10 seconds.

Of course we also have blossoms on the floor.

And we have white blossoms.

Trees with white blossoms, in the parking lot.

Now, if you are willing to drive a few hours, strap a board to your feet, and head up the slope, you discover that in California, you can have spring and winter in full swing at the same time.

The snow was quite nice this weekend. Not fresh powder, but warm enough to be soft. Let's hope for another big storm before the season withers away.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tahoe Pow and the Splitty

Last week, Tahoe received lots of snow, and while most of it came down earlier in the week, Saturday and Sunday were still pretty good. I went with friends to Kirkwood and to Heavenly. Here are two Kirkwood shots (riding up to the Wall, and the area north of the Cornice lift).

As expected, in Kirkwood all the easy to reach powder stashes had been flattened already, but coverage is great compared to earlier weeks. The Nostrils chute (below Norm's nose), which is one of my favorites, has so much snow in it now that it is barely recognizable as a chute at this point and provides little adrenaline. But I'm not complaining - I liked the snow below Covered Wagon Peak best. Here's two pictures from this area:

Cruising out from there, the ride went over rolling little hills with fresh snow into the trees where I got stuck a few times. I used the opportunity to improve my splitboarding skills, by converting my board into skis for an easier hike through the flat areas. I learned that I'd need more practice - I'm too slow to make the conversion worthwhile unless I end up using the skis for about half an hour. I also learned that skiing mode without attaching skins doesn't provide much traction in deep snow, unsurprisingly. In any case - great day! We ended it with hottub, delicious food, and a stay in a condo near the Stagecoach chair which turned out to be a decent deal. Here's a picture from our window on Sunday morning, looking toward Carson Valley.

After a little run down the Stagecoach area I decided that I wasn't going to hang out on groomers or moguls or try super hard to find a few powder pockets in some dense forest. Instead, I left my buddies behind and went to Killebrew to practice my splitboarding skills, starting things out by sailing down some fun chute into the canyon. My splitboard is lengthy and heavy so it takes extra effort to make turns on the steeper runs.

Killebrew is not snowboarder friendly at all. At the bottom, there is a narrow uphill traverse that drags on for a while, so most snowboarders stay out of the canyon for this reason. But this time, I wasn't planning to traverse anyways - I converted my snowboard into skis, attached the climbing skins, and started skiing up the hill.

This turned out to be less trivial than I had thought. Even the most gentle slope in Killebrew is plenty steep - enough so that my snowboard-skis easily slid sideways as I was attempting to traverse back and forth up the hill. I remedied the situation somewhat by adding the crampons, but still, this was not just a serious workout but also a good learning exercise. Half way in, I got slightly better at this, mostly by placing the poles and the feet with the crampons strategically and by taking advantage of the trails others had made when coming down the hill. I was wearing no jacket, no fleece, no gloves, no helmet, no goggles, just my base layer and some sunscreen. I had no rush - there was little wind, sunshine, blue sky, and beautiful rocks, trees, and snow all around me. After some hours of traversing back and forth the slope, I arrived at the top. Whoohoo!

I found a sheltered place to put my splitty back together. During this mechanical project, my fingers got cold, since fitting the pieces together requires scraping snow and ice off the board. Also, despite the sunshine, the metal parts of the board were cold enough to make my skin stick to them a bit, so I had to stop and wait a few times to warm my fingers. I think I'll need to invest into some thin, waterproof gloves to make this work more pleasant. I set sail down into the canyon for a second time. The slope starts out looking trivial and then converts into chutes.

The run I ended up with was pretty skied out but the snow was still reasonably soft - and as always, the scenery and views are great.

After my hike out of Killebrew and back to Mott, I traversed over to the East Peak Lodge. Coming back from my Killebrew excursion felt like returning to civilization - and sure enough, the Dipper Express lift was closed due to strong wind and Comet Express had a super long line at the lift - in my absence, I hadn't missed much here. Taste may differ, but I'm beginning to like hiking up the hill compared to waiting around for the lift.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Redwood Tree

I thought I'd post a picture of this little tree that I'm growing on my balcony. I'm proud of it - it's a real Californian Redwood Tree, or perhaps Sequoia sempervirens if you prefer Latin. I planted this tree myself - it came wrapped in a little paper as a gift and when it started out it had just two or maybe three little branches. But as of now it has grown eight or nine branches and has many green needles. The needles look happy rain or shine - my little Redwood tree is a patient fellow, and unlike other plants it is not arrogant or demanding - it never gets pissed off and throws brownish needles after me because I forgot to take a look for a few weeks. Instead, it's a real self-sufficient survivor - it extracts rainwater and nutrients from the soil so I don't have to look after it.

While this tree is small and vulnerable in this environment, I do feel honored and humbled hosting such a patient friend on my balcony. For this tree, a human lifetime is only a short episode, and if it grew in a coastal forest without any human interference or even logging, it would most likely be just fine - so its dependence on us humans is artificial. I hope I can live up to this responsibility. Eventually, when the little tree grows up, I'll need to find an adequate home for it - my balcony will not accommodate 30k cubic feet of wood. My little tree may be up for adoption eventually.